I want to share a secret that has been handed down through generations of women for thousands of years yet somehow has been suffocated in the past centuries through shame and taboo. I’m talking about your period and the whole menstrual cycle that goes with it. Awareness of your menstrual cycle is hugely powerful. It can improve your relationships, get you promoted, boost your self-esteem and change your life day by day, month by month.
Women are naturally cyclical, we change every day through our menstrual cycle only to repeat the process again the next month. Your hormones hugely affect your energy levels, creativity, productivity, appetite, sex drive and pretty much everything! There is no end to the wisdom of knowing where you are in your cycle. Our hormones do pretty much the same thing every 28(ish) days. Would it not be useful to have a clue whether we want to stay in or dance all night, whether to do a presentation or analyse a piece of writing, whether to go for a run or do yoga? I’m going to answer that for you – yes it is useful, I’m telling you from a mere 6 months of charting my cycle. What I used to see as craziness now makes complete sense. On day 15 of my cycle I’m a different person to who I am on day 19 – only 4 days later.
Let me tell you about charting and how it can help. I write down the day of my cycle (day 1 is when you start bleeding) and then a brief page of any particular emotions, energy levels, whether I’ve been craving sugar, wanting cuddles, wanting sex, felt like tidying, felt like cooking, struggled to meditate or didn’t want to socialise. You would be shocked at the insights you can have. Just the other day (day 18) I really wanted hugs and there in my journal 28 days earlier was the exact same thing. I feel like my very own psychic! If you’re in a relationship you now have the manual your partner keeps asking for. It may read something like this “Day 1 – cook me food, Day 15 – wild sex, Day 28 – leave me the hell alone”
It’s a little different from woman to woman but I’ll give you a very brief guide to the cycle.
Winter. Day 1, winter arrives, you have started to bleed, rest – please! Notice how painful it is, the more pain the more your soul is telling you something is up. Our menstrual cycle is one of the vital signs of mental and physical health and it often ignored or masked by drugs such as pain killers or the pill. Period pain doesn’t need to exist, it could be telling you to change your diet, quit your job, end your relationship or even that you have an underlying condition such as endometriosis (thought to affect 10% women). While you’re bleeding you have much more wisdom to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it because the left and right sides of the brain can talk to each other much better. Instead of sleeping on a problem I recommend you ‘bleed on it’. This is the perfect time for journaling.
Spring. As you stop bleeding you come slowly into the spring and start to get excited about new ideas and your energy starts to pick up. Your creativity grows, it is a good time to sit on the sofa with a notepad setting intentions and making plans.
Summer. Moving into summer and towards ovulation (on around day 14) you feel fabulous, unstoppable, sexy and full of energy. On day 14 I feel like I’m high, drunk and in love all at the same time! This is the time to put all those ideas you came up with in spring into motion.
Autumn hits suddenly with a dip in energy telling you to go inwards and slow down. Autumn strips away the ego showing you the blunt truth which can sometimes hurt and should not be suppressed. If you don’t slow down these critical feelings can explode out randomly as irritability and general bitchiness. Importantly, there is always truth underlying your outbursts, acknowledge them and don’t brush them aside as “being hormonal”. This is a time for completing tasks, try not to start anything new.
Winter (again). Then comes winter and provided you have the quiet and restful space the confusing emotional turmoil of autumn opens up into clarity. Relief, wisdom, day 1.
The amazing thing is that this happens every month. Think of it as repeating boot camp for the soul, spirit and ego. Each month we learn something about ourselves, we evolve and we mature. A lot of us are still girls trapped in the body of women because we haven’t harnessed the natural power of the cycle. An important note here, if you are on the pill or any hormonal contraception you will experience very little (if any) of this blood wisdom. I urge you to read Alexandra Pope’s book, ‘The Pill – are you sure it’s for you?’ Contraception is vital but there are many forms available and the pharmaceutical industry has hidden shocking side effects of the pill that are beyond the scope of this article. There are technologies available now which can tell you which days you are fertile by just using a thermometer and algorithms such as Natural Cycles. Natural cycles has been clinically tested to be as effective as the pill (as long as you abstain from sex on the fertile days) with no side effects.
I can only speak from my own experience. I came off the pill in November 2016 and I feel like I got my intuition back. Interestingly I started dreaming again and thoughts and feelings came up that had been subconsciously ignored for a very long time.
What I wasn’t expecting to feel from this journey is anger. I am angry that I didn’t know about all this sooner. Why wasn’t I told this when I had my first period? This isn’t anger directed at my mother, the problem is far bigger than that. Across the world the true nature and power that women have coded into their bodies has been repressed through stigma and taboo. On my first period I had to sneak into my parent’s bathroom and find some sanitary pads. They were in the hidden place at the back of the cupboard that my mum told me they would be when this day came. I didn’t really know how to use them and I didn’t tell anyone when I was bleeding, despite the intense pain, for years. The sanitary pads restocked whenever they got low but it was very rarely spoken of.
I would like my children to live in a world where periods aren’t a topic of shame or disgust. A world where women are respected for adjusting their work life and social life around their cycles. A world where women aren’t expected to be the same every day but are given the space and support to schedule around their true cyclical nature.
This isn’t just a pipe dream. I intend on trying to make this a reality, but how? We need to start a conversation. How great would it be to announce (with glee) “Come back to me next week, I’ll bleed on it” or “Sorry I’ve got the ovulation giggles”. Ask your friends what day of their cycle they are on – it’s a game changer when it comes to understanding how someone feels.
Through my journey so far I have realised that women are all desperate to talk freely about this. The more we talk the more shame falls away. By being open and honest you will inspire women to do the same. So I encourage you, be proud, be free and be the woman you were always meant to be.
Further Browsing / Reading:
- Alexandra Pope & Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer – The Red School provides a free course on menstrual awareness and I recommend any of their books, Wild Power comes out soon (April 2017) and I’m super excited!
- Uma Dinsmore-Tuli – Book ‘Yoni Shakti’ (translated as ‘Cunt Power’) and website on Womb Yoga , a feminine approach to yoga
- Holly Grigspall – amazing articles on the shocking side effects of the pill and a book I have yet to read
- Lisa Lister – Website Sassy SHE and books such as ‘Code Red’ on menstrual awareness
- Anita Daimant – Novel ‘The Red Tent’ set in biblical times takes you back to women’s natural power and leaves you feeling empowered